Sep 5, 2007

City of Delusion


There is business in downtown Allentown, its not glamorous, its mostly poor people buying cheap items. Our mayor, and other deluded bureaucrats, instead of working with the reality in hand, choose to think that our theatre, school and museum is a thriving art district. To that end, they have built a new parking deck to service the additional patrons they imagine their new banners will attract, and harvested a state grant for Lanta to help finance the illusion. The city and Lanta have moved most bus stops off Hamilton Street and adjoining corners, centralizing them along side of the new deck at 6th and Linden. At the remaining stops they have removed the benches, and placed signs explaining seating and other conveniences can be found at the new central terminal. This will hurt the many merchants who sell a soda or snack to the waiting passengers. While our mayor hopes for upscale gourmet, the majority of our taxpaying merchants are denied their customer base.

38 comments:

Dottie said...

Michael,

Collectively, the Allentown Art Museum, Baum School of Art, Symphony Hall, Community Music School, and Arts Park would make up what people commonly refer to as a "theatre and arts district."
Why do you call this an "illusion?"

michael molovinsky said...

dottie, your correct, those institutions do have patrons and i will slightly revise my posting. aside from the art park, those other entities have always been there, although pawlowski and some others may now coin the phrase arts district, there is no reason to expect more activity than in the past. i believe the deck was not necessary, and it was a poor decision to relocate the local lanta stops off of hamilton street. thirty years several private artists(mainly gregg weaver who has since passed away) created more of an art scene than the museum yuppies have managed despite their millions spent. the packaged artist loft idea(schoen building) is an oxymoron, real artists cannot afford it. sometime in the near future i will address the art scene.

Bernie O'Hare said...

While I laud Mayor Pawlowski for encouraging the arts in Allentown, I'm afraid I have to agree w/ MM on this one.

I'm astonished to learn that LANTA have moved bus stops off Hamlton Street, as well as those benches. It looks like an effort to corral Allentown's less affluent citizens in one area, preferably out of sight. It could be there are good reasons for this, but I can't think of any right now.

michael molovinsky said...

a possible answer to bohare might be, "there were state funds for a lanta terminal and we took advantage of it" our bureaucrats feel they never met a grant they didn't like, regardless of the consequences. in 2005 the Parking Authority, while requesting a meter increase, stated the merchants favored it. i conducted a survey and discovered they were never polled and opposed it. many of them are koreans and prefer not to be involved with the city or officials. so on one hand, the parking authority offers free parking to the BrewPub patrons, while on the other it has shoved off the small store customers to their own "terminal".

Anonymous said...

As usual in your haste to condemn Ed Pawlowski for everything that has happened since the onset of WW II, you misspeak. Whadda surprise.
Actually, it was Burgermeister Wilhelm Heydt who designated/created the "arts district" when he authorized the famous Hunter Downtown Improvement Plan that never went anywhere because he instead fixated on an arena at 9th and Hamilton.
The decision to relocate the LANTA stops off Hamilton Street is a good one if you want true consumer traffic on the city's traditional strip, and the new transportation center is more than a "bus stop." It is a transportation center more in line with the major metropolitan terminals that Allentown should be emulating. It might even cut down on congestion downtown and encourage people to walk around a bit. What a thought!
As for the benches, MM and his ilk are among the very people who lambasted the benches as nothing more than Motel 666 for the homeless. Now he bitches about their removal.
It goes to prove my point that MM cannot be objective about anything Pawlowski does, and has nothing substantive or positive to offer the City of Allentown.
The true shame here is that with his history and familiarity with the city, MM could be a vital contributing resource to the city's efforts to turn things around. For instance, if he wants to "address" the art scene, maybe he could provide one of his buildings as low cost, quality studio space for budding artists.
The Curmudgeon

michael molovinsky said...

i recall the hunter report coming out toward the end of afflerbachs term, but at any rate i was opposed to it in detail and concept; out of towners knowing what's best for allentown? allentown is not a large city, there is no congestion, there is no need for your large metro approach concerning traffic flow and a transportation center. although i opposed free standing benches for loafers, i never suggested they remove the bus stops or take away the benches from within the remaining ones on the adjoining street corners. i privately and publicly praised the mayor for his handling the aftermath of the tragic accident this summer at 7th and chew Sts. btw. in the late 70's i operated allentown photographic on 8th st. providing darkroom and gallery space to local photographers. to those of you who are so offended that i dare criticize your mayor, i paid my dues. try running for office, gather hundreds of signatures, speak to dozens of groups, and put your time, real name and money where your mouth is.

Mr. Damien Brown said...

MM/Bernie:

While it was never officially stated that the intention of the transfer center remove the poor from Hamilton Street it certainly will be a result. It happens to be a result I applaud for a few reasons.

1. It will make switching buses much easier and safer for all bus riders, the poor included. The larger crowds and cameras (which I predicting will be installed) will make this a safer location as well.

2. It is now only a matter of time before the coach buses at 3rd and Hamilton are moved up to 6th & Linden. Intermodel transportation will be vastly improved locally when it is.

3. While I applaud Bernie's genuine concern for those less fortunate, Allentown need not feel any shame saying "sorry, not this time" to any idea that gives preference (or lack there of) to the poor. This city has been much more charitable than any place in the valley to the poor over the years. I suggest all those outside Allentown who wish to help the poor do so by petitioning their local governments to create housing authorities, health clinics, or any one of the many functions local governments typically establish to achieve such goals. I will certainly be the first to applaud your efforts.

If Allentown, Lanta, and the Parking Authority can improve mass transit while getting rid of the “waitin for the bus” look on Hamilton Street so be it.

P.S . . . I rode Lanta to work and home today.

Dottie said...

Michael,

I like the Curmudgeon's idea of you providing one of your buildings as low cost studio space for artists. Just think, you can start a scene just like the one 30 years ago! It would be like "The Factory" (Andy Warhol's studio) in NYC! I know a lot of artists who would appreciate it.

michael molovinsky said...

dottie, in all due respect, why don't you and curmudgeon go partners and buy a building for that purpose. although i have criticized what i consider the taxpayer funded plastic art scene, i'm comfortable with my own contributions over the years in that arena and others also.

michael molovinsky said...

damien, years ago lehigh valley bus service had its bus station on S. 8th St., near hamilton. greyhound and other intercity had their terminal on S. 6th St, near hamilton. both of these locations served both the patrons and the city well. In todays reality, its confusing to me why the city keeps attracting low-income people with half their policies, but then desires to hide them off hamilton st. my current beef is that the vast majority of the merchants cater to the demographics that ride the bus, its unfair and unwise to push their customers 3 blocks away.

Mr. Damien Brown said...

MM:

Unfair maybe, but it is certainly not unwise.

As long as the image of the core of our downtown is undesirable the image of the entire city will be so (even as inaccurate as I believe that image is).

The way I see it is the current administration has set a goal of remaking Hamilton Street and they have decided to do what has to be done to make it happen.

Camera's, shifted bus routes, community block grants, and even paving a path that may cause a few dollar stores to close or move a block or two, so be it. That's what leadership does. It sets goal and works hard to achieve them.

Finally, whose fault is it that many of the business owners that may be negatively impacted choose not to participate in the political process. Surely a lack of resources is not the reason considering the rampant usury that is charged at many of these establishments.

Good riddance.

michael molovinsky said...

damien, market forces always prevail, that why farr lofts haven't filled up in 2 years. do you think middle class shoppers are going to come back to allentown anytime in the reasonable future. do you think empty store fronts who fold because of the lanta relocation will help the street's perception? besides the lunch crowd, who do not have time or inclination to shop, we are twenty years away from gentrification even if we had someone in charge who understood business, which we don't.

michael molovinsky said...

damien, there was no political process. the parking authority misrepresented to city council that the merchants favored a meter increase. in this lanta relocation i'm sure they were not consulted. as someone who has attended dozens and dozens of city council meeting let me tell you there is not much political process to really participate with, in this town things are a done deal.

Dottie said...

Michael,

I was just kidding about YOU leading an art scene! I'm just a struggling artist myself so I am in no position to buy a building. I don't know about the Curmudgeon. I'll be interested in hearing what you have to say later when you address the "plastic" art scene. I'm a former ASD art teacher.

Mr. Damien Brown said...

MM:

The Farr lofts are over 90% full. Being in the business, I'm sure you know this is considered full occupancy for any moderately sized multi unit residence .

Please do not interject words and/or concepts into what I said. I never said Hamilton St would once again be a retail shopping destination. The more you think about it, why would we even want it to be. Most retail shopping in the US is now big box discount stores anyway. Throw that garbage out in a suburb or along an arterial road somewhere, yuk!

I stated the current administration is remaking Hamilton Street. Like it or not, it is happening already. Take a walk pass the soon to be open Johnny Mannas, you will be very angry at its beauty.

I love it how those who embrace the status quo rant and rave about the free market but at the end of the day their respective market wouldn't exist in its current state, if at all, if it were not for some sort of government subsidy , spending policy, or regulation. It's simply a weak angle to debate with.

You may have the final word sir.

Bernie O'Hare said...

MM,

I don't know what's going on, but your last few posts have been pretty good. I like this discussion, and especially liked your Allentown fair posts. I better switch my meds.

Curmudgeon, you miserable bastard! I love your comments. I'm sorry to see the benches go. I'm also sorry to see Allentown try to sweep its lower income residents under a rug, which appears to be the case.

I have a lady friend who owns and operates a nail salon aling Hamilton Street. Most of her business comes from those lower income folks. I know she'd never agree to an increase in parking meters. What merchant would do that?

It seems with the changes being proposed, Allentown residents will not have as much access to mass transit. I think that's a mistake, especially at a time when our oil supply is peaking.

But I'll defer to all of you on this subject. I like Allentown and really like its people, but won't pretend to understand what the hell is going on.

Bernie O'Hare said...

If the parking authority is offering free parking to BrewPub patrons, it is most certainly discriminating against other businesses. I hate that kind of crap, if it's true.

michael molovinsky said...

damien, from the size of the ad the farr loft is still running, and from the number of dark units at night, i must doubt the 90% figure. why would a yuppie want to live at 8th and hamilton? considering farr loft got almost 800k from city, how much is Manna getting to finish project started 3 years ago? when i did my meter rate survey in 2005 i discovered over 40 low-end merchants doing well with low income clientele. those millions pawlowski spent on a couple of projects could have dressed up the entire street. your wrong about the free market needing govt. help to prosper. in my experience the govt. aided projects never succeed and the real success is always in private projects. ppl plaza still has empty floors and of course butz is empty except for his connections with visitors bureau and chamber.

Anonymous said...

How many years did it take for that office building take to fill up at Broad and main in Bethlehem? At least 3 for the retail. I don't even know if the office is still full but no one is whining about how bad historic Bethlehem is doing.

Class A office buildings in the valley generally run at 75% occupancy. With only one vacant floor, this puts the PPL building in better standing than most throughout the region.

michael molovinsky said...

i think there's at least two vacant floors, more telling is that the signpost on the corner is virtually empty. anon5:15, i don't know your area of expertise, but its tough to swing a commercial note with 25%vacancy, in the real world space is pre-leased before construction, but then again on hamilton st. we are in the KOZ plus grants photo-opportunity world.

Dottie said...

I don't believe that Allentown wants to "sweep the lower income residents under a rug" like Bernie says. The mayor actually lives downtown with the lower income people, and that shows that he cares about them. I agree with Damien's points 1,2 and 3. Shifting the bus routes makes a lot of sense, for all the reasons that Damien has so clearly stated.

Dottie said...

Bernie, of all people I would not expect YOU to complain about free parking of any kind.

michael molovinsky said...

although i never mentioned the "sweep" aspect, i have hear it from an "insider"
i disagree with damien. the central transfer point denies the riders of the buses shopping in addition to denying the merchants of their business.
if the purpose was to make hamilton less congested, they need only moved a few stops around the closest corner.
understand this deal involved the morning call selling their parking lot for way over market, not having to pay taxes on allentowns higher land millage, and still having "free" parking in the new deck. it also involved the parking authority's departing executive, a lanta grant, a new bond, butz construction, etc., alot of big boys who knows whats best for them, oh, i mean us.

Dottie said...

Michael,
I agree, it's the "big boys" at work here. The lawyers who are on The Board of The Parking Authority are the same lawyers who represent The Morning Call.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Dottie,

Ahem ... I'm currently parking ticket free. Just got out of rehab.

Anonymous said...

MM:

Only one floor is vacant a PPL and one storefront on the ground level.

I suggest you look into the occupancy of the shinny Roma Corporate Center in your beloved South Whitehall Township. Much of the large building is vacant and several of the smaller office buildings surrounding it are completely empty.

Maybe you should advocate a few dollar stores or check cashing joints open up out there.

michael molovinsky said...

anon 8;00 , the smaller roma buildings have been sold and the new owner vacated them, and is remodeling them from wall to wall. i'm tired of people posting anonymously and then making comments like "people of your ilk", or your beloved southwhitehall. your welcome to hand me a left handed compliment, or even an insult, but if you don't sign your real name, in the future i will not post it.

michael molovinsky said...

this morning i was photographing the closed bus stop and sign on S. 8th, just off of hamilton. an elderly woman with a cane remarked to me that she couldn't walk all the way to 6th and linden. there may still be a closer stop for that particular bus, if so it was not indicated. i wonder did lanta compromise their service to play ball with the urban planners?. i remember years ago a bus stop at 24th and union was moved to near 24th and fairview for view of sight safety reasons. a very "important" person had it relocated back to union because he didn't want people standing in front of his house. at any rate,i'm sure by now they have the patter down about the new terminal being an improvement.

Bernie O'Hare said...

MM,

Why don't you get this elderly lady's name (perhaps she prefers not to give it) and tell her story. This is very informative stuff. I'm disturbed by LANTA's apparent disdain for its own riders. There is a LANTA station in Bethlehem, but there are also plenty of stops all around. Something is not right.

michael molovinsky said...

bohare, you raise a good question. although some stops have been closed, both on hamilton st. and adjoining corners, other do remain. is it only certain routes which have moved or redundant stops? i don't know at this point, i'm not that familiar with lanta. i heard indirectly an eatery owner was complaining about a reduction in her customers. honestly, you have more of journalistic approach than i have. i didn't ask or think to ask the woman's name. i will ask a bus driver at the terminal tomorrow. ironically, the reason given two years ago to raise the meter rates was to pay for the new deck and terminal, double the insult to the small merchants. i would find your nail saloon friends' opinion interesting.

michael molovinsky said...

in an earlier post i mentioned that although the parking authority never polled the merchants in regard to the meter raise(2005), and said they did, the koreans(i know some are, many are asian at any rate) are reluctant to get involved in the political process.(process doesn't work in reality, but that's another story). when i polled them, it took several minutes of reassuring before they offered an opinion. although i invited them to a meeting against the meter raise, none came. i have the impression that these merchants(asian) are culturally afraid to express themselves to a city hall and will work with what cards are dealt them. i would expect no protest or msm story on the consequences of these bus stop changes

Bernie O'Hare said...

MM,

My ladyfriend's shop is called "Fancy Nails. It's on Hamilton Street, right above 6th. Her shop # is 610.433.5433. Tell her you know me and then duck!

She has absolutely no interest in politics or city or local government. She's hard to understand, but don't let her fool you. She's very smart and has been through a lot. You probably should not tell her you blog bc she thinks we're all nuts. If you hear the word "kong" being thrown around, she's calling you crazy. I get that a lot.

I will warn her about you this weekend.

Mr. Damien Brown said...

Bernie:

There are still bus stops on 8th, 9th, and most blocks on Hamilton.

At the end of the day, the biggest change was simply consolidating three curb side transfer points into one at a sparkling new location.

Before this change all nearly all routes passing through downtown Allentown would circle around the block at 8th and 9th streets to pass through one of the transfer points. This created a situation where most buses would pass go in circles and pass the same point twice withing 5 or 10 minutes.

Now all the buses will turn off the street and into the new transfer center where riders can get off and change buses away from traffic. My father went through it yesterday taking a bus to my house from the east side and he says it shave off 5 minutes from his trip.

Riders will no longer have to get off on 9th and run a block and a half to the 700 block of Hamilton or vise versa. Everyone wins from pretty much any angle on this one Bernie (except maybe a merchant or two on Hamilton selling overpriced junk food).

I visted the new transit center today and I was mildly impressed. There was a live security officer on duty and the Dunkin Donuts is well under construction. On the walk to the terminal from Hamilton I walked on 6th and it was pleasant. On the way back to Hamilton I used 7th and I must admit it was a tad scary. There are plans in place for 7th so we will see if that improves.

michael molovinsky said...

damien, you forgot to mention the dunkin donuts was given free rent, what a level playing field allentown provides, they take away your customers and give your new competition free rent; that must make dog star cafe(in symphony hall) very happy

michael molovinsky said...

damien, accepting your report, taking three major transfer points off hamilton(or just around corner) is alot of people.(enough to support a donut shop). i passed the new terminal and saw quite a few people sitting there. you make those hamilton curbside transfer points sound like the people were standing out in the street waiting for a bus. i saw a bus leaving the terminal coming out the alley onto linden, so the buses still go in circles, just a new circle away from the shops and merchants. Unless somehow hamilton st. replaces all those people with shoppers or diners, the terminal is A NET LOSS for the city.

Mr. Damien Brown said...

MM:

The Dunkin Donuts does not have free rent. You are 100% wrong. They will be paying $1 a year.

This idea was genius from where I stand. Lanta could sell tickets and candy bars in a retail space it runs itself costing a few hundred thousand dollars to construct and a good 40-50 grand a year alone in labor expenses plus all other operating expenses. Or they cost let offer the space dirt cheap to someone else who will be obligated (under contract) to offer the services Lanta would have offered while providing bus patrons with a superior product.

The math is pretty simple. Once again, everyone wins.

michael molovinsky said...

damien, right now there is no cost to sell the tickets, i suppose they are sold by the bus drivers. To enable that deck and terminal, the meter rates have doubled in allentown. please understand there are meters out to 9th and chew. although the shopping district has reduced down to hamilton st. at the most, the meter district has stayed the same since hamilton sts. heyday in the 50's, this in reality is a backdoor tax on our poorer citizens. to pay the bond involved with the deck the authority is more aggressive than ever in ticketing. the houses on chew st. received tickets this fair week for parking on their garage aprons. you say once again everyone wins?

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Once again, everyone wins." Damien, It was you who told us this new concept will hurt a few businesses along hamilton who sell "overpriced junk food." I don't think they win. And what will Dunkin' Doughnuts be selling?